This book started out as a category romance that I couldn’t sell to either
Silhouette or Harlequin. I was told it was “beautiful and moving”,
but that there wasn’t enough ‘romance’ (code word for sexual
tension, I presume) between the hero/heroine. So, I decided to expand it by adding
a subplot and more characters, called it Illusive Flame, sent it to BET
and they accepted it. I definitely find it ironic that this story is now under
the Harlequin umbrella. But as long as my name is spelled correctly on the cheque,
I don’t care who sends it.
heavy thunder of footsteps soon interrupted her thoughts and cut through the quiet
of the house. Victoria pushed the mop and bucket aside as the footsteps approached.
A man stormed into the kitchen his striking profile marred with irritation.
Eyes the color of dark molasses swept through the kitchen with annoyance then
briefly landed on her.
He headed towards the hall. “You’ll have to prepare the rooms,”
he said in a voice so deep it seemed to vibrate within her. “You know the
ones. It seems Nicholas and Patrice are coming for one of their famous visits.
When? I don’t know. But knowing them it will be sooner rather than later.
You know how delightful their visits are so be prepared.”
She caught her breath as he passed by her. He smelled like the earth and had
a scent purely his own. Her eyes drank him in. They slid down his impressive back,
which stretched his red chambray shirt, falling to his solid legs clad in worn
jeans. Then she glanced down and noticed the large muddy footprints. Her awe turned
“Not one more step,” she said in a quiet voice that shot through the
room like a released arrow.
Her words hit their target. The man spun on his heels and glared at her. “I
beg your pardon?”
“You should not be begging for my pardon. You should be begging for your
life.” She placed a hand on her hip. “Is what kind of man walks through
a nice clean floor with shoes not fit for the gutter?”
His tone grew soft as her voice rose. “Madam,” he said in an ironic
tone. “Do you know who I am?”
“Yes. A man who obviously can’t fly. So if you wish to walk further
you’ll take off your shoes and apologize.”
“Do you want me to do both at the same time or one after the other?”
“Whichever you can manage. I don’t expect much.”
He lifted a challenging black brow. His piercing dark eyes focused fully on her.
The remoteness never left them, but something unreadable mingled there. “And
who would I be apologizing to?”
“Ms. Spenser? You don’t have a first name?”
“It’s no concern of yours.”
“You won’t be using it.”
He offered her a quick unflattering glance; taking in her altered uniform and
interesting face. “Yes, that’s true.” He turned and walked out,
leaving more muddy prints.
Incensed, she grabbed her mop and followed him down the hall, mindless of the
dripping water that followed her. “Do you think I speak for your entertainment?”
He stopped, glanced up at the ceiling as if gathering patience then slowly turned.
Victoria took an involuntary step back. From across the room he hadn’t appeared
so large or so fierce. She had found his face striking, but on closer inspection
that description didn’t seem to fit. Although he had high cheekbones, a
sensuous bottom lip and brown eyes surrounded by curling lashes, his attractive
features seemed to mask a more predatory nature.
“You’re lucky I do find you entertaining, Ms. Spenser. I’m
a busy man. What do you want?”
“I expect an apology.”
“I just told you.”
He folded his arms; Victoria tried not to notice how the motion put an extra strain
on his shirt. “Refresh my memory. If something’s not important I usually
forget about it.”
clenched her teeth. “I spent an hour wiping that floor you just mucked up.”
“Right now you’re making a fine mess of your own.” He nodded
to her mop.
She shoved the mop at him, pleased when it dripped on his shoes. “Good.
Then you can do the hallway too, Mr. –”
He lowered his voice as he gripped the mop. “Braxton.”
“Mr. Braxton and I…” Her anger froze as his name registered.
“Braxton? You’re Mr. Braxton?”
He began to smile, a smile as genuine as crocodile tears. “Yes.”